An Interview with Mike Peters of The Alarm
By Andrew Daly
One upside of both the pandemic and the dire political situation we find ourselves in is that there is undoubtedly a treasure trove of music that awaits us as a result. That is to say- we aren’t going to be short on the subject matter.
For Mike Peters, leader of veteran band The Alarm, the goings-on within the world today, as well as Peter’s battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, have influenced their newest effort, Forwards.
The beauty of a band such as The Alarm is they have a not-so-subtle way of staying relevant, even after being in the game for over 40 years. That’s just one of the topics Mike Peters and I cover during our chat for ClassicRockHistory.com. Dig it.
Who were your primary influences? Who influences you most today?
My initial influences were the glam rock bands of early 1971-72. Slade was the first band I became aware of through hearing their song “Coz I Luv U” over the tannoy PA system while standing on the Stretford End at a Manchester United match as a kid. My sister switched over the TV to Top of the Pops on the BBC one evening, and I saw David Bowie singing “Starman,” and that was it. I was hooked. Today, I take influence from everywhere and like artists who are always pushing themselves and not just new bands. I went to see Bob Dylan recently, and he still played most of his new album and reworked songs from his catalog. It was like seeing a new band!
What new music are you working on? How has your approach changed since your earlier years?
I work on new music all the time and am constantly capturing new ideas on my iPhone sound recorder as and when they arrive. When I first started writing songs, I used to think that if I couldn’t remember a song from one day to the next, then it can’t be good. Now I capture ideas on my phone or write lyrics down so that I can cross-reference ideas with others and get them onto tape frees up the memory banks to allow for more creativity.
What makes Forwards your most district and best work yet? Which songs mean the most?
I didn’t set out to make a record at all. The record made itself, and I happened to be the conduit for the songs to become manifest. To be honest, it felt like my main role was just to press record. The song “X” means a lot to me, that and “Forwards.” Both songs wrote themselves, all I had to do was play the chords and write the words down.
How did your illness alter the outcome of Forwards? Did overcoming it change you as a songwriter?
I didn’t think I could make a record at all, never mind getting to a studio, so the process began because of the songs. I received them while in the hospital, and everything happened so fast. Maybe it was because I had a guitar in hospital, and it became the lightning rod for some untapped area of creativity, a bit like when David Bowie went to Berlin and the city and atmosphere defined the record that was made. I think the process has made me a better writer, as I realize that you have to finish a song as soon as it knocks on the door of your imagination.
How about the production side of things? What can you tell me?
I recorded some very rough demos, and when I played them to George Williams (The Alarm producer), he loved the vibe and suggested we start work on them straight away. The demos became the foundation of the whole record as we worked from the demos to the finished masters. Each song’s moment of creation is still at the heart of each master recording.
Do current trends alter your style and technique at all?
To me, it’s about listening to the songs and creating a soundscape that suits the lyrics. Sometimes you hear things in both new and classic music that connects and challenge. I have always wanted to be recognized as a “new” artist.
What are some challenges in making new music for a world with such low attention spans?
The same value of music-making and production that I heard years ago still applies. It was the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richard who said if you don’t grab an audience in the first twenty seconds, then the rest doesn’t matter. A lot of the energy goes into making the first 20 seconds of any Alarm track as good as it can be live in a short attention span world. You certainly can’t save your best song for last on an album anymore!
What are you most excited about moving forward, and to what do you owe your longevity?
Simple: staying alive, being with my family, and making more albums. As far s longevity, it comes down to self-reliance.
Mike Peters of The Alarm: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
Classicrockhistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business, or organization is allowed to re-publish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. All photos used are either public domain creative commons photos or licensed officially from Shutterstock under license with ClassicRockHistory.com. All photo credits have been placed at the end of the article. Album Cover Photos are affiliate links and the property of Amazon and are stored on the Amazon server. Any theft of our content will be met with swift legal action against the infringing websites.